“Known or Used” Not a Side-Step to PTAB Estoppel

Keeping with yesterday’s discussion of Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) estoppel in the district courts, a decision from earlier this year on yet another aspect of this estoppel has been recalibrated. Back in January, the Central District of California explained in The California Institute of Technology v. Broadcom Limited, et al., that IPR estoppel (35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2)) applies where the same IPR reference is later raised in court under the “known or used” prong of pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. § 102(a) instead of as a “patent or printed publication” as done in the IPR.

Upon Motion for reconsideration, the Court has agreed that it’s earlier Order required further clarification.
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User Manuals & Corresponding Product Estoppel under 315(e)(2)

District courts continue to grapple with whether or not physical products described by prior art publications of an earlier Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) trial are subject to estoppel. That is, by virtue of utilizing product manuals in the earlier PTAB proceeding, whether the actual products described “were raised, or reasonably could have been raised” under 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2).

The view of some districts has been that it does not, unless the Patent Owner (estoppel proponent) demonstrates that the product described in the previously examined manual is technically superior to the manual teachings. Yet, other districts are adopting an absolute prohibition..
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Burden on Patent Owner to Show Product Manual Available

Does the use of a printed manual at the PTAB foreclose later use of the underlying product in litigation? We know from cases like In Star EnviroTech, Inc. v. Redline Detection, LLC et. al., 8-12-cv-01861 (CACD January 29, 2015, Order) that where a product is superior to a publication in terms of relevant detail, it is considered outside of the reach of 315(e) estoppel.

But what about where the product is the same as a manual that could have been used in the IPR?
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Estopping a Winning Argument?

One of the stranger developments of recent months has been the interpretation of PTAB estoppel (315(e)(2)) to foreclose a petitioner from pursuing arguments in a district court that were successful at the PTAB. That is, a petitioner that has successfully defeated claims at the PTAB, and has received a Final Written Decision (FWD) explaining the same, is thereafter estopped from making the same successful arguments in court.

Earlier this month, the government supported this position in an amicus brief to the Federal Circuit in BTG v. AmnealIn it’s brief, the government explains that its interpretation leads to the “counterintuitive result that the district court would not be able to consider invalidity arguments that the Board found persuasive.”

Aside from interpreting the statute to be “counterintuitive” in the first instance, which is canon of sorts in statutory construction, it also requires one to construe estoppel as somehow guarding against consistency.
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New Presentation of Same IPR Art Thwarted by Estoppel

Post SAS, there are fewer exceptions to IPR estoppel. Indeed, the absence of partial institutions has led to many courts finding the “reasonably could have raised” aspect of IPR estoppel to be broader than just the art of the ultimate Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) trial. As such, unsuccessful petitioners are now exploring alternative theories.

In The California Institute of Technology v. Broadcom Limited, et al., (here) the Central District of California found that IPR estoppel applies where the same IPR reference is later raised under the “known or used” prong of pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. § 102(a), rather than as a “patent or printed publication” as in the IPR.
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ITC Staff Attorney Not Bound by Estoppel

Plaintiffs are painfully aware of the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) and its potential to derail a patent litigation. Indeed, post-SAS patent owners facing motions to stay pending PTAB review are left with even less to argue. Even where a stay is avoided, the speed of the PTAB can undermine traditional litigation pressure points that traditionally drove parties to settlement (e.g., Markman). As such, plaintiffs are increasingly viewing the International Trade Commission (ITC) as the strongest foil to a PTAB attack.

The ITC, having its own mandate for speed does not stay pending PTAB review.  Likewise, an ITC Exclusion Order can be issued within the same time frame as a PTAB Final Written Decision, or faster. These advantages are not insignificant in today’s patent monetization landscape. But, the ITC is not without its PTAB trade-offs for Patent Owners.


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